Cincinnati vs Miami: Battle for the Vicory Bell Preview

The Bearcats are back in action at home this weekend. The Miami Redhawks make the short commute to the city of Cincinnati for the 127th rendition of the Battle for the Victory Bell. Scott Satterfield and Cincinnati looks to keep the Bell at home and ride the momentum of a 2-0 start. Long-tenured Head Coach Chuck Martin and the Redhawks come to town looking to pull off an upset and bring the Bell back to Oxford for the first time in 16 years.

History of the Rivalry

Not the most known rivalry in the college football landscape, but a historical one at that. This year’s game between the two schools is the 127th version, making it the longest non-conference rivalry in all of the sport. The first match-up came in 1888, well over a century ago. It was the very first college football game that was ever played in the state of Ohio

The trophy for this rivalry is a Bell that gets passed back and forth between the teams. Although it has resided in Cincinnati for the better part of the last two decades, the original bell sat in the classroom building of Harrison Hall on Miami’s campus. It rang upon each Miami victory, but that bell was eventually subtly removed. Probably by Cincinnati fans or students after a victory one year. It then became a traveling trophy with a Miami side and a Cincinnati side, the year of each victory getting painted on by the winner of the game.

Cincinnati leads the all-time series with a record of 60-59-7. The Cats are currently on the longest winning streak of the rivalry with 16 straight.

Miami’s Season So Far

The Redhawks went down to Miami, Florida for a week one match-up against the Hurricanes. In the ‘Miami Bowl’, Miami fell in defeat. The Redhawks that is. The Ohio team was quite overmatched and started the season off with a 38-3 loss.

Week two brought a bounce-back opportunity for Miami. They traveled to UMass and were able to light up the scoreboard with a 41-28 win over the Minutemen. They hit the road once again this week and enter Nippert Stadium looking to pull off the huge upset. Here are some things to look out for to help, the Bearcats keep the Bell on campus.

Gabbert, Larvardain, and the Miami Offense

Brett Gabbert, younger brother of NFL quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, has been leading the Redhawk offense for five seasons now, since his true Freshman year when he led them to a MAC championship in 2019. He’s struggled with some injury battles over the last season or two, but when Gabbert is healthy he is a threat. He threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s win. The veteran Quarterback is currently fourth in all-time passing yards for Miami, just two spots behind Redhawk Legend and two-time Super Bowl champion, Ben Roethlisberger.

In Gabbert’s 300-yard game in week two, 273 of them went to one guy. Including an NCAA-tying record 99-yard touchdown. 5’10, 165-pound Gage Larvadain is a weapon for their offense. The Southeastern Louisiana transfer has put on a show for the Redhawks this season so. He currently leads the entire country in receiving yards on the year. With 16 catches, 359 yards, and three scores Laravadain will have to be accounted for at all times by this Bearcat secondary. Expect to see some double teams, bracketing, and a lot of eyes keyed on number 10 in white this weekend. 

Outside of Larvadain, there hasn’t been a ton of production from Redhawk receivers. In fact, no other wide-out has more than two receptions in the year. This is in part due to the injury bug hitting the Tight End room. Reliable, veteran weapon Jack Coldiron went down with a torn ACL in week one. Luke Bolden is a run-blocking guy who could see some pass-catching responsibilities increase with Coldiron’s injury. But, he went down with a high ankle sprain in week two. He’ll be a game-time decision this week and would look to help in the passing attack and try to clear some lanes for Miami Running back Rashad Amos against this stout Cincinnati Front.

Relying on Defense for the Redhawks

Miami was the number-one scoring defense in the MAC last season, allowing just 22.5 points a game. They have veterans at all three levels and the team will rely on them heavily if they want to pull off the upset this week.

Linebacker Matt Salopek is a third-year starter in the middle of the defense. He’s a two-time All-Mac player who anchors the whole side of the ball. With 268 career tackles, Salopek will be all over the field. Indiana transfer Ty Wise steps up at the other linebacker position next to Salopek. He’s held his own in a new role and will look to stuff Corey Kiner and the Bearcats rushing attack, a tall task so far this season.

Austin Ertl leads the Redhawk defensive line along with Caiden Woullard and Rutgers transfer Brian Ugwu. With multi-year starters all over the front, the newly pieced-together Cincinnati offensive line will have to be ready to go to keep Quarterback Emory Jones’ jersey clean this weekend.

Cornerback is a position of intrigue for Miami in this young season. They lost John Saunders in the transfer portal to Ole Miss from a season ago. There are a few young, inexperienced guys who are taking their shot alongside Yahsyn Mckee to hold down the outside. This is an area to attack for the Cincinnati Wide Reciever roomBraden Smith and Xzavier Henderson have shown a lot of good things so far, look for them to keep it up and bring back some of the explosive plays that happened in week one.

What UC Must Do to Avoid the Upset

Cincinnati comes into this rivalry game as better than two touchdown favorites. They’re off to a hot start with last week’s road victory at Pitt. The passing attack became a bit shaky in that game, so the Bearcats should look to exploit an inexperienced Miami secondary. Keeping tabs on Larvadain is important too, or he will create some big plays. Cincinnati will look to maintain some early season momentum against Miami and keep the Bell at home in front of the 13th straight sold-out crowd at Nippert Stadium under the lights this Saturday.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Scarbrough/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK